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Expat family ; wife/mum having mental/psych episodes ( and drinking )



New member
Jul 7, 2018
I am a 50 year old Australian male who has been married 10 years to a Cambodian female 36. We have two children 8 and 10.

We met, got married and lived in Cambodia for 10 years and 2 years ago relocated to Hanoi, Vietnam where I work as a specialist contractor to the Australian Government. We live inside a residential compound attached to my work.

In general we have had a very happy marriage. We have a symbiotic marriage where each party has always brought its strengths, have invested together, traveled together and the kids are well adjusted and bright.

When we lived in Cambodia my wife was always spoken about with positivity by my western friends and her khmer friends and was an elder and dependable rock in her large extended family. She had no bad habits and was just...a super wife and mum. My family in Australia all love her and stay in contact via FB etc ( which I do not use )

A few years ago I had to go to the Phillipines for 7 months work and she stayed in Cambodia with the kids ( although they came over for a month ) and she not only looked after them both and kept the family going and organised but also went to the gym daily ( a real rarity for Khmer woman ) and was totally ripped when I got back ! She was doing yoga and weights and Sauna and eating very well.

We moved to Hanoi and whilst I am busy with a super stressful job and the kids are at school, mum is left at home. She is going to the gym for about the first 6 months and then after a trip back to Cambodia for xmas she lost the gym mojo. I can understand this as I have been in and out of gyms for decades. However I then start to notice a change in her behaviour. I am coming home in the evenings and she seems animated, clumsy and disorientated. She is all over the place with her usual routine. She mostly cooks dinner and this is a huge indicator something is not right. Cooking one steak for 4 people and nothing else. Turning the oven on and .....leaving it with nothing in it. etc etc. I cannot for the life of me think of what is going on but all the signs tell me she is drinking and is drunk but we do not keep much booze in the house ever - a few beers in the fridge, a box of red wine and maybe a bottle of whiskey and none of those show signs of depletion. Except a couple of times here and there with beer qty being lower than i remember and me putting it down to me drinking it. One day I decide to mark the whiskey bottle and sure enough.....there is drainage. I then also notice 3l casks of wine that were semi full one day are FULL the next. Meaning the old cask has gone. I also then notice a buildup of single bottle wine carry bags from the boozer where we buy wine and i am like " but we never buy bottles ???? ".

So now I am starting to have real suspicions about a drinking habit forming but I decide to take her to a doctor to have a raft of blood tests and MRis etc done thiking it might be physical and Dr comes back with "outside chance it might be Lupus" and suggests more tests etc . So we leave the clinic and for some reason my wife decides to come clean and tell me she has been drinking red wine etc " for lunch while i watch TV" because she is bored. I have talked to her about and brooch again the need for her to find something to do as she cannot sit around in the apartment all day waiting for husband and kids to come home . She promises she will stop drinking and does for while however a little while later this accelerates and I am coming home at lunchtime to find her passed out and the kids sitting around unfed etc.( we teach where we work and live ) . One particularly bad day my 6 yr old son says he knows where mummy keep the alcohol and actually point out her secret stash of Hanoi Vodka which is awful cheap stuff and i know now we have a real issue.

However.....this is actually a separate issue ( although probably maybe related ) to what i seek feedback today about. About 4 months ago my wife had a visit from a ghost in her dreams. Now...this is very common with South East Asian Buddhist cultures. Sometimes the ghosts are good . Sometimes they are bad. usually the person will go to a Pagoda and say a prayer and get a blessing they are good to go and back on track. However this night I woke up at 2am or so and my wife was in a real "state" and was on the bed cross legged swaying praying and had a look in her eyes i will never forget. Haunted. Scared and altogether “ not there “ Over the next few days this escalated to her thinking she was pregnant to the ghost, the ghost wanted us to seperate, I had upset the ghost by fishing on his land in Hanoi, the ghost had killed our goldfish ( we had one die months earlier ) etc etc. She does not sleep for several days and is in a real hysteria. I have never seen her like this and the kids are scared and as a western male I am totally unequipped to deal with a superstitious mania. I am out fishing one day and I get a panicked phone call from the kids saying mummy is leaving and never coming home and when I get back to our place she is dressed in a cocktail dress ( !! ) and trying to pack while rambling about the ghost. I tell her she needs to get home to Cambodia ASAP to go to her Pagoda, see her monks and her family etc and unwind so I jump online , buy a plane ticket and hours later she is on a 90 min plane ride alone. next thing I know her family is contacting me asking me what i have done....she has gone mad etc etc etc I tell them all of the above and that I cannot deal,do not understand the ghost business being a westerner and need to watch the kids and get on with my work. They are aware she has had drinking issues as I have told them this when they have visited us in Hanoi but Cambodians do not intervene like we would so they do not help much on that issue.

She spends 5 weeks in Cambodia going to the Pagoda every day and hanging out with family etc. I do not know is she was drinking but she came back about 2 months ago and seemed better and relaxed and was not touching a drop of alcohol. She took the kids to Cambodia 4 weeks ago for a 3 week holiday and....was chronically drink every day. I spoke to her twice and she could not say more than a few words. Kids were telling me via whatsapp they were hungry and mummy was drunk all the time etc. I am gutted and angry as hell. So they got home 4 days ago and we are due to fly to Australia in three days to see all my family and most importantly, validate my wife's newly granted partner visa which took 2 years and thousands of dollars to successfully apply for. this is a huge and important moment for our family..

This morning at 1am I am woken up by my wife who I think i on the phone but no..she is just jibbering to herself incessantly whilst listening to monks chant on youtube. I can see straight away she is heading into the same state as when she "saw the ghost". Later in the morning I got back from some shopping and there she was barefoot at the backgate to our compound ranting to the guards that our lovely supportive cleaner had stolen all our passports and a large stash of her gold. I opened our safe and show her the gold was all there and our passports were in full view on the kitchen table ! And so she apologizes and then spends the next 3 hours in a cold bath listening to monks chanting on her phone. She gets out of the bath and picks an obscure place on the living room floor to sit down – still wet and wrapped in a towel - for an listening to the chanting on her phone and when I tried to get her to go to the bedrooom so the kids would not see her this way she hisses and spits at me " leave me alone or i will not go to australia and i will kill myself with a knife"

.I am now scared, stunned, anxious, stressed etc. She had never threatened to self harm before. We are due to fly in 72 hours and if we dont.....she misses the visa and all that hard work i fsor nothing and it SEVERELY limits our family options in the future. This has been planned for a long time. People are flying in to cover my workload etc etc. its a nightmare.

Here are some of the other random observations on her behavior over the last 30 hours;

• Mood swings from happy and laughing to manic and angry
• Having conversations with the youtube videos of monk’s chanting as if it was someone on the phone a
• Constant showering
• Not wanting to be touched one minute. Wants a hug the next.
• Cannot walk in the house without wearing my flip flops . This lasts about 30 mins and is then forgotten.
• Walks in to bathroom and squats and takes a pee in the shower stall right next to the toilet and is laughing while doing it.
• Gets hungry so I cook and then does not eat.
• Incessant spitting in to a cup and at one stage asks me to spit into her mouth to “ feel my love”
• Wanting me to lie straight on the bed on my back not on my side
• Not wanting me to use a bed cover
• And …the most worrying….she is completely oblivious to her kids. Does not speak to them, acknowledge them, engage them etc.

Last night I find her pacing around the kitchen at 1am – again dressed in nice evening dress. I guide her back to the bedroom and she asks me to lie down with her and we give each other a hug. It is at this stage I actually break down in uncontrollable sobbing after almost 2 years of stress on the work and homefront and now this immediate episode we are facing. She apologises “for doing crazy things” and I tell her she does not have apologise but we are all worried and scared for her and that I feel I cannot help if she will not talk to me about what is going on. So now momentarily she is the one looking after me !

I firmly believe my wife now has some very real mental illness on top of the drinking issue that is manifesting in manic episodes. I have no idea how or who to reach out to in Hanoi and she does not trust Vietnamese people as there is an existing cultural rift there . I imagine the mental health resources in Cambodia are even less available and id have to send her there alone as I simply cannot risk losing my job by taking time indefinitely. I cannot trust her family to drive the process as they would just opt for trips to the bloody pagoda.

I have begged her to talk to me on both the drinking and the manic episodes but she just won’t. I have no idea what to do. No one to assist where we are and I have to keep going/working for the sake of my kids. I cannot just put everything on hold which sounds horribly selfish but it is reality.

Sorry for the rant .
Poopy Doll

Poopy Doll

Well-known member
Jun 13, 2015
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA
Please don't apologize for the long post. I was reading it and was reminded about an Asian woman I knew in the mental hospital. She would squat and pee in paper cups all day. What your wife is doing is pretty far gone. But it is something that may stop if she stops drinking. The drinking has to stop first. Then you can see what you are left with.

She may be experiencing culture shock, finally, and not able to articulate it. So she has turned to alcohol and is estranged from her children as she is unhappy but unable to talk about it.

If you take her to a psychiatrist they may be of a different opinion as they adhere to the medical model.
They will tell you she has a disease.

I think she has issues she is blocked from admitting.

Or else she may be bipolar. That is easily helped with medication.

You can start with a therapy session. Can you find a therapist who is Asian ??
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